Have You Given Yourself That $1,400 After-Tax Raise Yet?

If there’s one thing that I love about my loyal readers, it’s how responsive you are. Sometimes you like what you read, other times not so much. Now and then you simply need more information. But no matter what, I can always count on hearing from you. Which brings me to a previous column I wrote on pulling the plug on subscription pay TV. It brought a huge response.

According to NPD Group, the average pay-TV bill is $123 per month—more than $1,400 a year. For many, that’s money that could be better used to build an emergency fund or pay off debt. No wonder that column struck a chord with so many readers.

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The most-asked question had to do with the need for an antenna to receive free, local HD broadcasting. Which kind? Which one works best?

As I was fielding your messages, my husband and I were in the process of relocating. We did it! In April, we moved from California to northern Colorado, about 20 miles north of Denver. What a change from big city life in Orange County to living in the country. Our little village boasts a population of just 18,000. And what a perfect opportunity to test antennas to find the best way to enjoy free TV and quality programming in our new location.

Strollers, Rust Stains, Green ‘Dawn’ and … Soilove UPDATE!

Children learn by asking questions. Students learn by asking questions. New recruits learn by asking questions. I learn by asking questions! It is the simplest and most effective way to learn.

Brilliant thinkers (aka EC readers) never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to learning practical ways to improve their lives.

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Dear Mary: I’ve been looking to buy the inexpensive The First Years Ignite Stroller you so highly recommend, only to discover that it has been discontinued. Any suggestions on a replacement model that you can also recommend? Janet

Dear Janet: While The First Years Co. is no longer in business, as I write I see that Amazon has a few of this terrific stroller left in inventory. If you are unable to grab one of them, an excellent alternative is the Summer Infant 2015 3D Lite Convenience Stroller—priced at about half the current price of the Ignites. I like Summer Infant 2015 3D Lite Convenience Stroller a lot because it folds up so easily, it’s lightweight and quite comfy for the little ones. This stroller is very close  to the Ignite in every way and it’s getting lots of great reviews!

Movie Night: A Poppin’ Good Time!

If you love popcorn (who doesn’t?) you might be interested to know that the typical American consumes 68 quarts of the stuff every year.

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If you mostly eat concession stand movie popcorn, those 68 quarts are costing a bundle. To get a handle on that cost without giving up the joy, why not have more at-home movie nights (your local public library is likely to have all kinds of movies on DVD you can borrow for cheap or even free) when you make your own popcorn? Add a little variety to your popcorn and you might find it not only cheaper, but better to stay home now and then.

Kettle Corn

  • 1/2 cup un-popped popcorn kernels
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Place the popcorn, sugar and salt in a large pot with vegetable oil. Cover then place over medium heat. When you hear the first pop, shake the pot and continue shaking back and forth to ensure that the popcorn kernels and oil do not burn. Once the popping has slowed, remove the pot from heat. Servings: 5.

Teaching Readers ‘How to Fish’ and Get Rid of Pet Odors, Too

Dear Readers: Yesterday I opened my mailbox to find 1) a letter from Jenn, asking me to send her my new an improved recipe for homemade laundry detergent (she’d clipped it from her newspaper, but now she couldn’t find it,  2) a message from Chuck asking me to send him the coupon code to get 10% off Nok-Out odor eliminator, and a frantic request from Beverly who is battling ants in her kitchen and kicking herself around the block that she didn’t save the column on non-toxic ways to get rid of household pests.

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Every day I get requests to repeat tips, resources and information from past posts and columns.  And I don’t give these people the answers they’re looking for. Instead, I direct them to EverydayCheapskate.comthe repository for my columns and posts where all of the information they need is available including links to all of the resources, information and websites using the easy-to-use search function. There’s also a contact form that lets anyone send a message straight to my inbox.

 The site is free. And while it’s not required, if you subscribe, you’ll hear from me from time to time. I send out bonuses, updated information and follow-ups to folks who have subscribed at EverydayCheapskate.com.  

Beat Cost of Satellite Radio, Unlock Keurig 2.0 Brewer, and Trap Japanese Beetles

When my boys were really young, I had them convinced that I knew everything. More than that, I could read their minds and had eyes in the back of my head, too. That didn’t last for long, but I sure had fun with it while it did. And now I am having the time of my life with you, my dear readers. Your letters and tips help to keep me on top of technological advances plus everyday stuff I want to know, but cannot possible keep up with on my own. I appreciate and depend on you more than you will ever know!

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RADIO FREE. We bought a new car, which came with a trial offer of SiriusXM satellite radio service. It’s my wife’s car and she loves the satellite radio feature; but we do not like the cost.

Our cell phone service provider, T-Mobile, allows us to stream from select music services without affecting our data usage. These music apps have both free and subscription services available, depending on whether we want to pay to eliminate the commercials.

Voila! We can stream the music from our smart phones to the car stereo because of the features built into the car stereo (using USB, Bluetooth or headphone output jack) and it’s just like having the satellite radio for free. We can make a coast-to-coast drive without much loss of our favorite music at a savings of at least $10 a month. Dave

When It Comes to Storing Bananas, Don’t Believe Old Wives’ Tale

For years, I believed an old wives’ tale that bananas will turn black and spoil almost instantly if you put them in the refrigerator. In fact, I even passed this notion on to you. Whoops! Hearing from reader Lin made me reconsider, test and now I must recant. Lin is right. I was wrong!

photo credit: Wikihow

photo credit: Wikihow

BANANAS IN THE FRIDGE. I read in your column a while back about how to keep fruit fresher longer. You said do not put bananas in the refrigerator. I beg to differ. We put fresh bananas in the fridge and they may turn back and ugly on the outside but inside even after seven days or longer, they are as fresh and firm as new. Try it. Lin

After testing and researching further, I have discovered that if I put the bananas in a plastic bag and tie or seal it tightly, then place this in the crisper drawer, the bananas retain their yellow color. There’s something about black bananas—even if the are totally fine inside—I find to be somewhat off-putting -mh

BABY BATHTUB. If your baby is too big for the infant tub but too small for your bathroom tub, buy a 10-gallon plastic storage tub and a rubber bath mat with tiny suction cups. For about $5 your baby won’t slip and fall, but will be able to splash and play and have a great time. This size “tub” should last a few years and when baby has outgrown it you have an instant storage bin. Just remember to stash the lid in a place you’ll not forget! Beth

And please, never ever leave a child alone in any amount of water for any length of time. -mh

What to Do While You Wait for Things to Return to Normal

Life on earth has never been perfect, but you’d have a hard time convincing some people of that. It’s not that they are ignorant. They have selective memories.

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Perhaps you can identify if you long for the way things used to be—when jobs were plentiful, mortgages were simple, retirement accounts moved in only one direction (up) and students could carry their 100-percent-financed college degrees straight into six-figure jobs.

Now that it appears things are no longer quite so perfect, you’ve put your life on hold. You’re anxiously pacing the floor trying to hold on until the stock market rebounds, real estate sales bounce back, your loan modification comes through or some TV advertiser offers a debt-settlement scheme that returns your life to the “perfect” way it was.

Can we talk?

Stop looking back. “Normal” may be a setting on your clothes dryer, but it is not an economic condition. Every moment that you mourn the passing of the way things were, is a moment lost in the present. Concentrate on where you are and plan for how you will face the future.

We’ve Become a Nation of Softies

Compared to my grandmother, I’m a lazy bum. Instead of hiring others to do domestic services for them, she and my grandfather focused more on how much money they could sock away for emergencies and for their “old age.”

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Both lived to be nearly 100. They never applied for Medicaid or government assistance* or needed a handout or financial aid. They lived in their own home (purchased with cash) until they died. They never had a car loan, but always drove a nice car.

Grandma dressed like a million bucks. She could knit and quilt, cook, bake, clean, decorate and entertain. She could as easily sew a winter coat as a new throw pillow for the sofa.

She was an elegant, wonderful lady with an eye for beauty. She single-handedly landscaped their backyard in Spokane, Wash., planting trees, digging flower beds, installing borders and flowers that turned a gravel pit into a botanical garden. She never owned a pair of pants, doing everything in what she called a “house dress,” complete with stockings and jewelry. What a lady.